Tulare County Sheriff's Office faces more complaints about COVID-19 policies

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- New claims have emerged against the Tulare County Sheriff's Office over the management of COVID-19 policies inside the county jail.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California claims that poor policies have not protected inmates, leading to an outbreak in December.

A complaint about safety protocol last year resulted in a federal judge ordering the Tulare County jail - to implement a mandatory mask policy.

Now, the ACLU has tacked on 31 pages to its complaint.

The ACLU is representing new claims from inmates who say Sheriff Mike Boudreaux's solution to social distancing is to force some inmates to remain in their cells nearly the entire day.

"They are telling us weekly about ongoing fears in the jail, lack of social distancing," says ACLU attorney Annie Decker.

"It's essentially a solitary conditions confinement, violating the incarcerated people's constitutional rights."

Sheriff Boudreaux admits jail staff must limit how many people are allowed on the yard at once, which means inmates could spend over 23 hours per day in their cells.

"However, we are meeting the mandates of the state of California which requires that each inmate has to be out of their cell three hours per week," he says.

The complaint claims that as a result, there's a mental health crisis among inmates, with one suicide and at least three attempts since the lockdown took effect in September.

The ACLU suggests the jails make more room for inmates to properly social distance.

"They should start releasing people, sheriffs have been doing that across the country," says Decker.

Sheriff Boudreaux says there are currently zero cases of COVID among inmates.

He adds that out of over 300 senior and high-risk inmates who were offered the vaccine, over 100 have received their first dose.

But the ACLU says the department isn't doing enough to encourage inmates to take it.

"Many are actually refusing to take the vaccine because of fears of ill effects," says Decker.

The complaint alleges vaccines were denied to two pregnant women who qualified as medically vulnerable per the CDC, claiming jail staff forced them to sign refusal forms.

The ACLU will bring the complaint before a federal judge on April 6th.
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